I realise that I may be starting to sound obsessive about the Correos (Spanish Post Office for the uninitiated), but they just keep coming up with new ways to confound us and make life that little bit more difficult.
Their latest gem was a cracker and a perfect insight into the ‘mas o menos’ culture that emigrants to the island must learn to adapt to…or end up walking the streets babbling away to Chuffy (obscure Armstrong and Miller reference) like a demented madman (or person if we want to be PC about it).
I handed over my two packages to the girl behind the counter waited to hear the price I’d already worked out in my head whilst I’d spent half an hour waiting my turn…€6.30 (and no, it didn’t take me the full half hour to work it out).
Instead of simply stamping the packages, she dug into a drawer, pulled out three sheaves of paper, each one half the size of the individual packages and proceeded to try to stick them on to one of the envelopes. They were clearly far too big and also weren’t self adhesive, so she had to stick them on with cellotape.
“What are they?” I asked, worried that this unsolicited addition was going to cost.
“Oh, just a promotion,” she answered.
On each sheet was a picture of the Spanish national football team. The Correos were obviously making sure that the world was made aware of their country’s success in the European Championships…and why not.
However, I noticed that in the centre of each sheaf of paper was a small stamp. I sort of got the feeling that it was supposed to be detached from the rest of the paper before the lot was stuck to envelopes. But hey, she’s the one who works there, so I left her to it.
It must have taken her between five to ten minutes to stick the sheets to the two packages (not the best example of time management in my opinion, especially when the queue is heading for Guinness Book of Records proportions).
Finally she tapped information into her computer and turned to me.
“Seven euros,” she smiled.
“How much?” I asked her to repeat the amount, just in case I’d mistranslated.
“Seven,” she confirmed.
“Err, that’s not right,” I insisted, thinking ‘hear we go again’. “Did you charge me for those bits of paper that I didn’t ask for in the first place?”
“No; there’s no charge for them,” she printed off the receipt and pointed to the total printed on it. “See…seven.”
“I think there’s been a mistake,” I kept my voice calm; I was going to need her with me if we were going to sort this out. “Each envelope is €3.15, yes?”
“Yes,” she agreed.
“And two envelopes at €3.15 each is €6.30, agreed?”
She grabbed her calculator and tapped away at its buttons. A frown spread across her face.
“Agreed…that’s strange,” she looked at her computer screen. “But it says here seven euros.”
“But it’s mistaken, yes?” I felt progress was being made.
“Clearly,” she agreed. “I don’t understand. I’m sorry.”
I handed over my money and left her still frowning at her computer, her faith in its infallibility shaken…until the next customer. I know it was something to do with the additional stamps, but I’d been ready cause the exact same thing had happened to Andy two days previously. The thing is, we know how much our postage is down to exact grams, and we can speak enough Spanish to challenge obvious mistakes, but the innocent visitor probably wouldn’t know any better and would blindly pay what they were asked.
I truly and honestly believe that these kinds of scenarios aren’t schemes to rip unsuspecting customers off. In my experience Canarios have proven over and over again to be about the most trustworthy, honest and genuine people (except taxi drivers of course, but that’s a given) that I’ve encountered anywhere. It’s simply a symptom that runs throughout the psyche; a certain lack of attention to detail – the ‘mas o menos’ factor. It can be as frustrating as hell especially if, like me, you’re prone to pedantry, but it’s all just part and parcel of living on the island of eternal spring.